Section 4: Society and the environment are affected by space

Section 4: Society and the environment are affected by space exploration and the
development of space technologies.
4.1 The Risks and Dangers of Space Exploration
The dangers of space environment were discussed in section 2. Besides those dangers, there are
others. Accidents may result in loss of life, economic setbacks and many years of work. In 1967 3
astronauts of Apollo 1 died during a training exercise. In 2003 7 astronauts died when the space
Shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry.
The Dangers of Manned Space Travel
A launch can be affected by many dangers, including highly explosive fuel, poor weather,
malfunctioning equipment, human error and even birds. Once in flight, the spacecraft can be
affected by floating debris, meteoroids and electromagnetic radiation. Re-entering Earth’s
atmosphere also has its dangers. The re-entry path the spacecraft takes must be perfect, otherwise, if
it is too shallow – it will bounce off the atmosphere, and if it is too steep – it will burn up.
Space Junk
Space junk refers to all the pieces of debris that have fallen off rockets, satellites, space shuttles and
space stations that remain in space. This can include specks of paint, screws, bolts, non-working
satellites, antennas, tools and equipment that is discarded or lost.
The Hazards in Space
Over 4000 missions have been sent into space. Micrometeorites are constantly bombarding
spacecraft and the International Space Station. They travel at extremely high velocity and can cause
great damage. Once they enter the atmosphere, they usually burn up.
The Hazards on Earth
Some debris in space will enter the atmosphere and will not totally burn up. When this occurs, it
may land in populated areas and case loss of life or damage to property.
Some satellites, or decommissioned space stations, that re-enter the atmosphere have radioactive
parts and can contaminate a very large area, costing a lot of money and hours to clean it up. Some
burn up in the atmosphere and those parts that don’t, can fall into the ocean, making recovery and
clean-up less costly.
4.2 Canadian Contributions to Space Exploration and Observation
One of the most notable Canadian contributions to the international space program is the
“Canadarm”. It was launched in 1981 and has served a very useful purpose on many missions,
including launching and retrieving satellites for use of repair, fixed the Hubble Telescope and put
modules of the International Space Station together.
Canada has also launched many satellites into orbit, example: Alouette 1 in 1962.
Chris Hadfield – 1st Canadian to walk in space.
4.3 Issues Related to Space Exploration
The Pros and Cons of Space Exploration
Disease, poverty, hunger, pollution and terrorism are all problems that face the people of Earth.
Spending billions to explore space, or spending billions to solve the conditions we currently
experience is an ongoing debate.
The Potential Value of Space’s Resources
Resources in space mean economic wealth. Energy supplies appear to be unlimited – solar energy
from the Sun and mineral resources from the Asteroid belt. The cost of travel in space could be cut
substantially if fuel and construction materials are readily available in space.
Political, Ethical and Environmental Issues
Who owns space?
Is it right to spend so much on
Who is responsible for
space, instead of fixing
protecting space
Earth’s problems?
environments from
Who can use the resources in
Do we have a right to alter Who is responsible for
materials in space to meet cleaning up space junk?
our needs?
Who will determine what goes How can we ensure that
on in space?
exploration will be used
for good and not evil?
Collaboration between nations with a “space treaty” may resolve some of these issues and pave the way
to ensure that space exploration is orderly, meaningful and fair to all humans and all nations.